Shortly before Patrick Crusius murdered 22 people and injured more than two dozen in El Paso, Texas, he declared in a manifesto posted on the website 8chan that he was trying to stop a "Hispanic invasion of Texas." But there was also a distinctly environmental theme to his screed: part of a lesser-known far-right strain called eco-fascism.
The El Paso shooter named his manifesto "An Inconvenient Truth," presumably after Al Gore's 2006 climate change documentary. "The decimation of the environment is creating a massive burden for future generations. Corporations are heading the destruction of our environment by shamelessly overharvesting resources," he wrote. "If we can get rid of enough people, then our way of life can be more sustainable." He also blamed America's consumer culture for environmental damage:
Fresh water is being polluted from farming and oil drilling operations. Consumer culture is creating thousands of tons of unnecessary plastic waste and electronic waste, and recycling to help slow this down is almost non-existent. Urban sprawl creates inefficient cities which unnecessarily destroys millions of acres of land. We even use god knows how many trees worth of paper towels just wipe water off our hands. Everything I have seen and heard in my short life has led me to believe that the average American isn’t willing to change their lifestyle, even if the changes only cause a slight inconvenience.
Crusius also claimed that he was inspired by the shooter in Christchurch, New Zealand, who killed 51 people at two mosques and, in his own rambling manifesto, referred to himself as an "eco-fascist." He described immigration as "environmental warfare," and claimed "there is no nationalism without environmentalism."
The shootings in both El Paso and Christchurch, New Zealand are the latest examples of a new kind of ecoterrorism. According to the FBI, ecoterrorism is "the use or threatened use of violence of a criminal nature against innocent victims or property by an environmentally-oriented, subnational group for environmental-political reasons, or aimed at an audience beyond the target, often of a symbolic nature." For many, this likely evokes the image of tree-huggers with bolt-cutters, like the Animal Liberation Front which started breaking into animal testing labs in the '80s, releasing test subjects and destroying equipment.
That's probably the image White House advisor Kellyanne Conway was trying to conjure up when she told Fox News viewers to read the Christchurch shooter's manifesto for themselves: some demented hippie more in line with PETA than Donald Trump. "He said he’s not a conservative, he’s not a Nazi, I think he referred to himself as an eco-naturalist or an eco-fascist," she said.
But eco-fascism is not the fringe hippie movement usually associated with ecoterrorism. It's a belief that the only way to deal with climate change is through eugenics and the brutal suppression of migrants. The movement's founding father was Madison Grant, who started the first organizations dedicated to protecting California redwoods and American buffalo. He was also a staunch supporter of race science who, as president of the Bronx Zoo, put Ota Benga, a member of the Mbuti tribe kidnapped from Congo, on display in a cage with apes in 1906. He published The Passing of the Great Race, or The Racial Basis of European History in 1916, warning of the decline of the "Nordic" race, and wrote elsewhere that his generation had "the responsibility of saying what forms of life shall be preserved." His racial theory inspired Anders Breivik, the man who massacred 77 people at a Norwegian youth camp in 2011. But his fusion of white supremacy and environmental conservation also lingers.
Eco-fascism relies heavily on a concept called "deep ecology," the idea that the only way to preserve life on Earth is to dramatically—forcefully, if necessary—reduce the human population. It's best summed up by "lifeboat ethics," as eco-fascist and radical ecologist Pentti Linkola put it: "When the lifeboat is full, those who hate life will try to load it with more people and sink the lot. Those who love and respect life will take the ship’s axe and sever the extra hands that cling to the sides."
Eco-fascists today believe that the size of the human population is not only putting a strain on natural resources, but also that masses of displaced people will be a threat to state and cultural stability in a seemingly inevitable post-climate change world. Like more garden variety white nationalists, they believe that allowing migrants into the U.S., or other "white" nations, is suicide. Or, to borrow a phrase that crops up in far-right memes and neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer, "Save trees, not refugees." Writing for the New Statesman in 2018, Sarah Manavis described eco-fascism as growing online community awash with tree and mountain emojis, plus runic symbols taken from Heinrich Himmler's SS, the Nazi Party's paramilitary organization. The umbrella term "eco-fascism" covers a lot of different ideas, but Manavis found some consistent themes, including "veganism, anti-multiculturalism, white nationalism, anti-single-use plastic, anti-Semitism, and, almost always, a passionate interest in Norse mythology."
Climate change is already one of the biggest drivers of human migration. Some experts point to simultaneous droughts in the Middle East combined with grain shortages in the other parts of Asia as some of the main factors leading to the civil war in Syria, a conflict that has displaced 13 million people both internally and externally, since it began. And according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center, in 2017 alone more than 18 million people were displaced in their home countries by extreme weather. The number of climate refugees worldwide will only grow as climate change increases drought, food insecurity, and conflict. A June report from the U.N. Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights found that "even if current targets are met, tens of millions will be impoverished, leading to widespread displacement and hunger."
Some far-right parties in Europe are already trying to capitalize on all this, as environmental reporter Kate Aronoff described in an article for Dissent. France's borderline fascist National Assembly party is claiming that a hardened border is vital environmental policy. Hungary's president is calling for aggressive climate change action specifically to stop migration. As Aronoff puts it, "The horror of climate change isn’t in the intrinsic violence of hurricanes or heat waves, but in the ways societies choose to deal with and prepare for them." While the U.S. Republican Party is one of the last entities in the world that denies the reality of climate change, it can be just as monstrous for political parties to admit that it's real but embrace the eco-fascist solution, which is, essentially, genocide.
If governments don't deal with climate change—if they fail to address it now or prepare for the worst outcomes later—then attacks like the ones in El Paso and Christchurch will likely come more often. The extremists will try to take matters into their own hands.
Originally Appeared on GQ